In a CNN town hall about Obamacare Tuesday night, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders lectured a small business owner about her ability to provide healthcare to her employees. In fact, he even demonized her, saying that she was causing problems for good business owners who provided good healthcare for their employees! Only later did he realize that she could no longer afford healthcare for herself, much less her workers.
LaRonda Hunter, owner of five Fantastic Sam’s hair salons in Fort Worth, Tex., explained that she only employs between 45 and 48 people, because Obamacare would force her to provide insurance if she had 50 employees. “Unfortunately, the profit margin in my industry is very thin, and I’m not a wealthy person, so it’s impossible for me to grow my business,” Hunter said.
“My question to you, Senator Sanders, is how do I grow my business, how do I employ more Americans without either raising the prices to my customers, or lowering wages to my employees?” the small business owner asked.
Sanders was incredulous. He had to clarify twice that Hunter, despite owning five salons, does not provide health insurance for her employees. Finally, he responded to her question. “Let me give you an answer you will not be happy with,” the senator started. “I am sorry, I think that in America today, everybody should have healthcare and if you have more than 50 people, I’m afraid to tell you, I think you will have to provide health insurance.”
When Hunter pressed him on her original question — how to expand business or pay for insurance without raising prices or lowering wages — he turned her into an economic villain.
“My guess is that one of the problems we have is that maybe somebody else in Fort Worth who is providing decent health insurance to their employees, and they are in an unfair competitive situation regarding you,” Sanders declared, wagging his finger at the poor woman. “You can compete and maybe charge lower prices in business, while they on the other hand may be providing decent health insurance.”
The Vermont senator’s implication? Hunter is cheating in business by not giving her employees health insurance. Rather than just taking the hit to her business — which might force her to go out of business — and providing health insurance regardless of her capabilities, this small businesswoman is making life worse for everyone by lowering the standards of business practices and making it harder for good businesses to succeed.
Hunter had two devastating responses to this vile insinuation. “I think you’ll find the profit margin in my entire industry about the same,” she said. In other words, it’s hard enough to make money in hair salons that no employer would be able to easily provide health insurance.
Hunter’s second response came later on, after Sanders asked her “what happens if one of your employees becomes ill?”
Heartbroken, the small business owner replied, “I can’t really answer that question. But I can tell you that, because the premiums have gone up so much this year, and because I don’t qualify for any kind of government subsidies, I don’t have — for the first time in my life — insurance.”
At this, Sanders shook his head in disbelief. How could a successful evil capitalist not have enough money to buy herself health insurance? Well, as Hunter herself explained, “It’s just not affordable. Unfortunately, the prices of my services just don’t warrant it.”
“The situation you described is honestly absurd,” the Vermont senator replied. “You should not be going around without health insurance, your employees should not be going around without health insurance, we should not be spending twice as much per person on healthcare as people of any other nation. Please join me and fight for a Medicare-for-all program.”
After villainizing this woman for her supposedly evil business practices, Sanders turned to her and said, “Join me.” I half expected him to add “and together, we can rule the galaxy as father and son.”
While Sanders attacked LaRonda Hunter, Texas Senator Ted Cruz listened to her story and expounded on it. He introduced two terms, the “29ers” and the “49ers.” The 29ers are “the millions of people across this country that have been forced into part-time work, that used to have full-time employment, and are now working 29 hours a week because Obamacare kicks in at 30 hours a week.”
Rather than demonizing Hunter, Cruz said, “There are millions of businesses in the exact situation you’re in.” He told the story of a dairy farmer in West Texas who said, “I could hire 20 or 30 more employees right now, but Obamacare would bankrupt my business.”
Cruz attacked the response of Democrats who say to struggling small businesses, “Tough luck, we don’t care if it drives you out of business.”
Many Democrats like Sanders seem to think that employers are all the same — rich malignant capitalists searching to maximize profit off the backs of customers and workers. When confronted with a small business owner who can barely make ends meet, they gawk in disbelief, and repeat the same old mantras — “health insurance for all!”
Here, Sanders came face to face with a small-business woman who breaks his ideological view of the world, and all he could do was utter his same broken philosophy. To Sanders, people like LaRonda Hunter are the problem. To Cruz, they’re the very people he’s fighting to help.
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